Top Stories With Washington Post Columnist Robert McCartney | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Top Stories With Washington Post Columnist Robert McCartney

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The big news in Washington, D.C. this week was Mayor Vincent Gray's arrest after he, along with nearly half the members of the D.C. Council and more than 30 other people, protested parts of the congressional budget compromise that affects the District.

"I think he accomplished three things," said McCartney in regards to the arrest. "First, he fullfilled a campaign promise that he would get arrested for D.C. rights providing that he didn't do it all by himself. Secondly, he got some national media attention for the plight of the District. Most people around the country don't realize that D.C. doesn’t have full home rule or equal voting rights, and this helped correct that lack of knowledge. And then third, he got some local attention for something other than hiring and spending scandals."

McCartney noted that the attention wasn't necessarily diverted from the scandals because there was a lot of media commentary suggesting that the arrest was "a cheap stunt."

"I don’t think that's the main thing that motivated him," he said. "I think he cares deeply about this issue, he campaigned on it, and this was objectively speaking because of what the budget deal said at a very appropriate moment to take this stance and take this action."

Funding for transportation was another aspect of the budget compromise that was discussed.

"It didn't get much attention, but the Washington area came out of this quite well on one of its top priorities, which was funds for transportation," said McCartney. "First of all, the spending cuts did not include the one-year-old federal matching grant for the Metro transit system –- that's of course $150 million promised each year and matched by D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The House Republicans initially wanted to eliminate it, but it was restored, at least for the remainder of this fiscal year. And that's really a tribute to the big bipartisan effort by the local congressional delegation."

The Maryland legislative session ended this week and on the issue of the state and Pepco, McCartney said lawmakers got tougher with Pepco and other state and electrical utilities on reliability and standard issues.

"They directed regulators in the Maryland Public Service Commission to set service standards and authorized them to find utilities –- $25,000 for each violation –- starting as early as next year," he said. "And the big question now is how the regulators will implement this. They do not have an impressive track record, but now they’re under a lot of pressure to hold Pepco accountable. And that includes coming from Gov. Martin O'Malley who has spoken up a lot on this and has promised that he will make the regulators use his influence as much as possible to make the regulators get tough with the utilities."

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